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STATE OF THE UNION
Interview With Ohio Governor John Kasich; Interview With Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; Interview With Former National Intelligence Director James Clapper; Interview With Former CIA Director John Brennan; Interview With Illinois Senator Richard Durbin. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired November 12, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Russian denial.
President Trump seeming to backtrack now, after appearing to side with Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence agencies, and calling former intelligence chiefs political hacks.
Two of the men he called out, James Clapper and John Brennan, are here to respond, exclusively, next.
Plus: dueling plans. Republicans in the House and Senate try to come to an agreement on taxes.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We're not doing this for political benefit. We're doing this to help improve people's lives.
TAPPER: But, as new details are released, will some middle-class Americans take a hit? Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin joins me live in minutes.
And Senate scramble. Alabama candidate Roy Moore accused of sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old girl.
ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: These attacks involve a minor, and they're completely false and untrue.
TAPPER: What will the Republican Party do, if Moore wins? Ohio Governor John Kasich weighs in.
I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is totally confused.
After a week of discipline on his foreign trip in Asia, President Trump unloaded overnight in a series of tweets and comments, hitting his critics as -- quote -- "haters and fools," and saying that he tries to be friends with North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, while also essentially calling Kim Jong-un short and fat.
President Trump also appeared to kind of, maybe, sort of backtrack on earlier statements in which he seemed to take the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin over American intelligence agencies asserting unequivocally Russian election interference.
During a press conference in Vietnam, the president was asked to clarify once and for all whether he believes Russia interfered in the U.S. election.
Here's his response:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election.
As to whether I believe it or not, I'm with our agencies, especially as currently constituted, with their leadership. I believe in our intel agencies, our intelligence agencies. I have worked with them very strongly. There weren't 17, as was previously reported. There were actually four.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Just -- just to be perfectly clear here, President Trump was given yet another chance to definitively state -- quote -- "I believe Russia interfered in the 2016 election" -- unquote.
And, again, he did not do so.
Now, those comments come after President Trump took aim at America's intelligence community after his meeting with Vladimir Putin.
Speaking to reporters on Air Force One in a conversation the White House will not allow us to play the audio from, President Trump says he -- quote -- "really believes Putin means it" when he says he didn't meddle, saying -- quote -- "He says, 'I didn't do that.' I think he is very insulted by it. If you want to know the truth, don't forget, all he said is he never did that. He didn't do that. I think he's very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country" -- unquote.
And then he went on to suggest the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community was politically motivated.
He said -- quote -- "I mean, give me a break. They're political hacks. So, you look at it, I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper, and you have Comey. Comey is proven now to be a liar and he's proven to be a leaker. So, you look at that, and you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with that."
Here to respond directly to the president's comments are two of the former intelligence chiefs the president called out, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence General James Clapper.
I will just start.
What is your response, Mr. Brennan, to what President Trump said about Vladimir Putin and U.S. intelligence agencies?
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, I think Mr. Trump knows that the intelligence agencies, specifically CIA, NSA and FBI, the ones that really have responsibility for counterintelligence and looking at what Russia does, it's very clear that the Russians interfered in the election.
And it's still puzzling as to why Mr. Trump does not acknowledge that and embrace it, and also push back hard against Mr. Putin.
The Russian threat to our democracy and our democratic foundations is real. And I think his continuing to not say very clearly and strongly that this is a national security problem, and to say to Mr. Putin, we know you did it, you would have to stop it, because there are going to be consequences if you don't.
TAPPER: And he -- once again, he said what he said originally, and giving the impression to a lot of people that he sided with Putin, and he started attacking the U.S. intelligence agencies, you two in particular.
And then, when given an opportunity to clarify, to say where do you -- what do you believe, he didn't really clarify. He said -- he didn't say: I believe Russia interfered in the 2016 election and I think they need to stop and I take it very seriously. He said: Putin believes what he believes, and I side with our intelligence agencies.
But it was vague. Why do you think he does that?
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: I don't know why the ambiguity about this, because the threat posed by Russia, as John just said, is manifest and obvious, and has been for a long time.
Putin is committed to undermining our system, our democracy, and our whole process. And to try to paint it in any other -- any other way is, I think, astounding and, in fact, poses a peril to this country.
TAPPER: What threat, what peril does it pose to the country?
CLAPPER: Well, for one, that, as we have seen, and the evidence that's come out since the publication of our intelligence community assessment on the 6th of January, is -- further reinforces the depth and magnitude and scope and the aggressiveness of the Russian interference, to include their very astute use of social media.
Apart from that, something we don't think about too much, is the fact that the Russians are embarked on a very aggressive modernization of their strategic nuclear forces, to include a very capable and scary counterintelligence -- counter space program.
They only had one adversary in mind when they do this. And, oh, by the way, the Russians are in abject violation of the INF Treaty, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. So, the Russians do not harbor good intentions toward the United States, and there shouldn't be any illusions or any ambiguity about that.
And our president -- the president fosters that ambiguity.
TAPPER: The president also called both of and you FBI Director Comey political hacks. All three of you worked in senior levels in the Obama administration, although you also worked during the Bush administration.
How do you respond to the charge?
BRENNAN: Well, first of all, he was referring to us as political hacks because he was trying to delegitimize the intelligence community assessment that was done.
Jim Clapper, Jim Comey and John Brennan did not write that assessment. It was written by the professional intelligence officers and law enforcement officers of this great country.
Secondly, I feel very honored to be associated with Jim Clapper and Jim Comey in the same category. And considering the source of the criticism, I consider that criticism a badge of honor.
And, third, I found it particularly reprehensible that, on Veterans Day, that Donald Trump would attack and impugn the integrity and the character of Jim Clapper, who served in uniform for 35 years, who responded to the call of his country to go to Vietnam, flew in over 70 combat support missions over Vietnam, and, like Senator McCain, really did put his life at risk, because of this country's national security.
And to impugn the character of somebody like Jim Clapper on Veterans Day, who has dedicated so much of his life to this country, I just find that outrageous, and it's something that I -- I think that Mr. Trump should be ashamed of, but it doesn't seem as though anything he does, he feels any shame whatsoever.
TAPPER: What is the effect of these attacks, not on you two or Jim Comey, but on other people in the FBI, in the CIA and the NSA, people who are still there, who worked under you, and are still there working to try to make the country safer?
CLAPPER: First, I have to reciprocate what an honor it has been to serve with the likes of John Brennan and Jim Comey, who are dedicated public servants, and have served this country long and well and with great integrity.
I think it can't have a positive -- cannot have a positive impact on the morale of the work force of the intelligence community. But I do believe, in my heart, that the men and women of the intelligence community will continue to convey truth to power, even if the power ignores the truth. TAPPER: At one point, President Trump said he thinks Vladimir Putin
is insulted by the suggestion and the conclusion by the intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the U.S. election.
What do you make of that, his bringing up that Putin feels insulted?
BRENNAN: Well, I think Mr. Putin is very clever in terms of playing to Mr. Trump's interest in being flattered.
And, also, I think Mr. Trump is, for whatever reason, either intimidated by Mr. Putin, afraid of what he could do or what might come out as a result of these investigations.
So, it's very worrisome. And I think it sends a worrisome, very disturbing signal to our allies and partners who are concerned about Russian interference in their democratic processes as well.
So, it's either naivete, ignorance or fear, in terms of what Mr. Trump is doing vis-a-vis the Russians.
TAPPER: President Trump took to Twitter yesterday to try to justify his position, his -- his position, his posture towards Russia.
He said -- quote -- "When will all the haters and fools out there realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing? There always playing politics" -- they're was misspelled -- "There always playing politics. Bad for our country. I want to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine terrorism in Russia. You can greatly help."
So, that's his argument: Russia can be a help on these issues, and that the stature -- the posture of being belligerent towards Russia won't -- won't assist in that matter.
CLAPPER: Well, I suppose they could be, but I think it's naive to assume they will be.
Again, the -- the likelihood that the Russians are going to pursue like interests with us is slim and none. And I think it's very naive and, again, in fact, perilous to this country to make an assumption that Russia is going to behave with the best interests of the world or certainly the United States in mind. They're not.
TAPPER: So, Mr. Brennan, Director Brennan, you said -- a couple minutes ago, you talked about the reasons why President Trump might be susceptible to what Putin tells him. And you talked about flattery.
You also talked about fear. I can't ignore the fact that all of this comes at a time when there's a lot of speculation about whether or not the Russians have damaging information about President Trump.
This comes, of course, within the context of the fact that President Trump has been willing to criticize everyone, from the cast of "Hamilton" to Meryl Streep, but has yet to say one disparaging word about Vladimir Putin.
Do you think this idea that maybe the Russians have something about -- on him, have compromising material, is relevant here?
BRENNAN: Well, I don't know if Mr. Trump is considering that.
I just know that he has been very determined to try to delegitimize any effort to come up with the truth in terms of this investigation.
His attacks on the intelligence community, on the assessment, the attacks on the media, this is an effort to, again, try to undermine those quarters that could pose a serious threat to him.
Also, I think it shows the insecurity that he still feels about the election and how Russian interference may have contributed, in fact, to that election. So, I think there's a combination of factors that are motivating the president at this time.
TAPPER: Do you know of any compromising material that the Russians might have on him?
BRENNAN: I have shared everything I know with the Intelligence Committees.
TAPPER: That's not a no or a yes, because we're -- we're not privy to the information that you gave to the Intelligence Committees.
BRENNAN: That's true. You're not.
Let me ask you a question about how, in 2016, you were all watching and monitoring and assessing what was going on with the Russian interference.
In retrospect, was it a mistake of President Obama not to make a bigger public deal of this at the time?
CLAPPER: Well, this is in the coulda, woulda, shoulda department.
I -- and bearing in mind there really wasn't much of a template or rule book for how to handle a situation like this, I think the arguments, the concern that the administration had was, if we did make a big public deal of this, would we first be amplifying what the Russians were doing?
And I think, frankly, the president was probably sensitive to the accusation that he was putting his hand on the scale and trying to affect the outcome of the election if he spoke up about it.
Now, we did. We put out a statement. We, at the time, then Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and I, put out a statement on the 7th of October, which pretty -- was a pretty forthright statement about what the Russians were doing. And it was issued before the election. Unfortunately, it got emasculated, overcome by the "Access Hollywood"
tapes. And so it sort of got lost in all that.
So, I think what was done was appropriate. I guess you could go back and say, well, we should have been more aggressive or done something earlier. I don't know.
But there were -- there were good reasons why there was caution and discretion here.
TAPPER: Director Brennan, so General Clapper just said there wasn't the template.
But Russians had been attempting to interfere in elections before -- 2016 was not the first time. It was the most successful time ever, probably, in Russian history, but it wasn't the first time.
Why were the intelligence agencies, and not just the intelligence agencies, law enforcement, communications, every part of the government, why was it not better prepared?
BRENNAN: Well, I think we were prepared.
It's a question of, during campaign season, you want to be able to understand everything that the Russians might do. So, we had a responsibility to make sure the president and the Congress were informed, public statements that were made about Russian attempts to interfere.
At the same time, we wanted to be able to know what they were doing, so that we might be able to thwart anything more extensive that they might have done.
And I do think that the pushback, both publicly and privately, against the Russians gave the Russians some pause, because it was made very clear to them that we were onto their game and that it was going to have very serious consequences.
So, I think the intelligence community, law enforcement have their counterintelligence antenna up all the time. And I think we did a pretty admiral job.
TAPPER: Since you two left the -- office in January 2017, we have learned more about attempts by the Russians to reach out to the Trump campaign.
We have learned about Donald Trump Jr. eagerly accepting a meeting to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from somebody he was told was a Russian lawyer. We have learned, with the Comey plea agreement, with George Papadopoulos, former foreign -- foreign adviser to the Trump campaign, we have learned that he was told by a professor with ties to the Kremlin in April 2016, long before I knew anything about the hacking or the public knew anything about the hacking, that the Russians were claiming that they had damaging information. Now, you said in January 2017, this year, that you knew of no
collusion. Did you know of those two events?
CLAPPER: No, I did not.
And the statement I made at the time was true. We had no -- I had no direct evidence of collusion. Now, we had lots of concerns, because we were aware of multiple meetings that were going on while, at least my part, did not -- was not directly of the content of these meetings. But we were certainly concerned.
And the metaphor I have used before is that I think our dashboard warning lights were clearly on about what was going on. But to say specifically that we had evidence of -- smoking gun evidence of collusion, no.
But, of course, a lot more has come out that's -- you know, raises, I think, circumstantial questions, if nothing else.
TAPPER: What message do you think President Trump is sending to Vladimir Putin right now, in terms of Russia's continued attempts to interfere in elections in Europe, and potentially in the United States again?
BRENNAN: Well, I think what he's doing is saying to Vladimir Putin, we need to put this behind us, because there are important -- is important work to be done.
And I agree. We need to be able to find a way to improve relations between Moscow and Washington.
But I think what -- by not confronting the issue directly, and not acknowledging to Putin that we know that you're responsible for this, I think he's giving Putin a pass.
And I think it demonstrates to Mr. Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and to try to play upon his insecurities, which is very, very worrisome from a national security standpoint.
TAPPER: Do you agree that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders like Putin? And, if so, does that make you concerned about the security of the United States?
CLAPPER: I do.
I think, you know, he seems very susceptible to rolling out the red carpet and honor guards and all this, all the trappings and pomp and circumstance that come with the office. And I think that -- that appeals to him, and it -- I think it plays to his insecurities.
And, yes, I do think both the Chinese and Russians think they can play him.
TAPPER: And, then, lastly, do you know -- and maybe you can't answer this question, but do you know, Director Brennan, of any laws broken by the Trump campaign, anybody affiliated with the Trump campaign, when it comes to working with the Russians on election interference?
BRENNAN: I'm just a former intelligence officer. I never had the responsibility for determining whether or not criminal actions were taken.
But, since leaving office on the 20th of January, I think more and more of this iceberg is emerging above the surface of the water, some of the things that I knew about, but some of the things I didn't know about, in terms of some of the social media efforts that Russia employed.
So, I think what Bob Mueller, who, again, is another quintessential public servant, is doing is trying to get to the bottom of this. And I think we're going to find out how large this iceberg really is.
CLAPPER: And, if I could add, I just think it's absolutely critical for the country that there be closure on this and there be some finality to what did happen.
TAPPER: All right.
General Clapper and Director Brennan, thank you so much for being here. We really appreciate it. Thank you so much.
It sounded good at the time, but now Republicans are backing away from their promise that every American will see a tax cut.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will weigh in on that next.
And a Senate scramble, after Republican candidate Roy Moore is accused of sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old. Governor Kasich is furious over it all. He's here, too.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
Just days after Republicans in the Senate outlined their version of tax reform, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is acknowledging some working Americans might pay more under the Senate tax plan, though not most.
McConnell told "The New York Times" he misspoke when he said nobody in the middle class would get a tax increase.
House Speaker Paul Ryan is also modifying his words.
A spokesman for Ryan told "The Washington Post" he misspoke when he called the House plan a "quote tax cut for everybody" -- unquote.
Joining me now to discuss is U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
Secretary Mnuchin, good to see you. Thanks for joining us.
STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Good to see you as well.
TAPPER: I want to get to taxes in a moment.
First, I do want to ask you about Russia.
After President Trump made his initial comments about Vladimir Putin and U.S. intelligence agencies, Republican Senator John McCain tweeted this -- quote -- "There's nothing America first about taking the word of KGB colonel over U.S. intelligence community. There's no principled realism in cooperating with Russia to prop up murderous Assad regime. To believe otherwise is naive and places national security at risk."
You also heard General Clapper and Director Brennan on the show just a few minutes ago saying that they think that President Trump is being played by Putin.
What's your response?
MNUCHIN: Well, in all due respect to your previous guests, I think that those were the most ridiculous statements.
President Trump is not getting played by anybody. President Trump was focused on some very important issues, which are North Korea and Syria. And those are areas that we need to work together with Russia and get them on board with our strategy.
TAPPER: But why not definitely come out and say: I think that Russia -- I believe the U.S. intelligence agencies, Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and they must not do it again, impose the sanctions that Congress passed months ago?
Why not take this more aggressive and assertive position?
MNUCHIN: Well, we are imposing the sanctions. We are moving forward with that. I think the president has had private conversations.
Again, I think the country is ready to move on off of this and focus on important issues.
TAPPER: Let's talk about tax reform, because that's why you're here.
As you heard, both Majority Leader McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan have walked back assertions that everyone in the middle class will get a tax cut, rather than a tax cut.
It's true, most people in the middle class, according to this plan, will get a tax cut. But you will acknowledge that some, according to this plan, some middle-class Americans will see a tax increase?
MNUCHIN: Well, as you know, one of the things that's so complicated about our tax system today is that everybody has a different situation, takes advantage of different parts of the code. It's very complicated.
So, by simplifying the code, we're putting everybody on a level playing field. We have literally run hundreds, if not thousands of examples within Treasury. And for most people -- and, again, it may not be 100 percent, but by far the majority -- both the House and Senate version provide middle-income tax relief.
And that's what we want to do. And both plans have, for the median family of four, over $1,000 of tax relief, which is quite significant.
And we actually ran the numbers for you. Even a family of $300,000, which is a lot of money in New York, they're also getting a several- thousand-dollar tax cut. So, I think both plans accomplish what we're looking to do.
TAPPER: But, certainly, there are middle-class voters who voted for President Trump who are going to get a tax increase in this plan, if it becomes law. And that's not what they were told by President, by candidate Trump that would happen.
MNUCHIN: Well, it's not what he wants.
And, again, as we go through both these plans, the House, I expect, will pass their bill this week. The Senate will move on it after Thanksgiving. We will end up in conference, and we will fine-tune this.
So, again, the problem is, this tax code is so complicated that literally everybody may take advantage of a different piece. And we want to make this thing simple and fair and provide middle-income tax relief. And I'm comfortable we will end up doing that.
TAPPER: But are you committing to saying that you are -- you want this to be fine-tuned, you want this to be changed, so that any middle-class Americans who would have their taxes increased, which is a minority, but it's still a chunk of middle-class Americans, that you want that fixed before President Trump signs it to law?
MNUCHIN: What I'm saying is, there are slight differences between both bills.
The good news is, both the House and the Senate and the administration have the same objectives. And that's about middle-income tax relief. That's about fixing the business tax system, so that we're competitive.
And the slight changes between both bills, I'm comfortable will iron out in conference, so we can get something to the president to sign in December.
TAPPER: Now, you have been saying that the Republican tax plan, which will reduce the corporate tax significantly, will unleash so much growth that it will pay for itself.
You have been criticized for that. I want to read you something from your predecessor, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. He said -- quote -- "I'm not aware of so irresponsible an estimate
coming from a Treasury secretary in the last 50 years."
He is -- what he is saying is, by relying on a projection that the stock market will rise because of this, it's irresponsible to suggest that it's going to pay for itself.
MNUCHIN: Again, I think it's unfortunate that Secretary Summers has come out and said some of the things.
There are lots and lots of economists that come out and support our claims. And, by the way, we have been completely transparent. Different models will show different things.
In our models, we believe there will be $2.5 trillion of growth. And we're happy to go through the numbers. We're happy to give the details. We want full transparency to the American public. But the important issue is, if we increase GDP by 30 or 40 basis points, this plan is break-even.
TAPPER: I want to point to the fact that President Trump keeps saying that this is the biggest tax cut in history. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I'm giving the largest tax cuts in the history of this country.
It will be the biggest cuts ever in the history of this country.
This will be the biggest tax cut in history, in the history of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, we have tried to find a way that this is true. But it's not.
If you look at the tax cut bill, tax bill as a percentage of the gross domestic project, it would be the eighth largest. If you look at it in inflation-adjusted dollars, it would be the fourth largest. If you look at it just dollar for dollar, it would be a third largest.
Isn't it important just to, like, have factual debates when discussing these things?
MNUCHIN: Well, as you just commented, there's lots of different ways of looking at it.
This will be the largest change since President Reagan.
TAPPER: Largest change?
MNUCHIN: Yes, the largest change to the tax system and the largest cuts since Reagan to the tax system. Think about this.
TAPPER: But that's not the biggest tax cut in history.
MNUCHIN: Think about this. Biggest tax cut. Going from 35 percent to 20 percent in corporate taxes? If that's not the biggest tax to make our businesses competitive, what is?
The pass-through rate is going to be the lowest rate since the 1930s. If that's not -- if that's not...
TAPPER: But you're making -- you're making -- it sounds like you're making factual arguments that are different from what President Trump says...
TAPPER: ... when he says it's the biggest tax cut in history.
MNUCHIN: It is the biggest tax cut in history on mostly every single part of the plan.
So, again, going from 35 percent to 20, we're going down to discounted rates on pass-throughs back to the 1930s, this is about bringing trillions of dollars back onshore and creating economic boom for our country.
TAPPER: I want to ask you about Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate. I know this is not your bailiwick, but you're the only administration representative we have right now.
He's been accused of engaging of sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old girl in 1979. Based on what we know right now, should Judge Moore step aside? Would that be the better step for the Republican Party?
MNUCHIN: I only know what I see on TV and what I read in the paper.
But if the allegations prove to be true, he should step down.
TAPPER: But I guess the question is, when you say, if the allegations prove to be true, I don't know that we're going to get any more proof.
We have four women on the record saying that he came on to them and, in one case, had sexual contact with them when they were teenagers, the sexual contact with a 14-year-old. He denies it.
I don't know that we're going to get any more information one way or another. No judge is going to weigh in on this.
Based on what we know now, should he step aside?
MNUCHIN: Again, I'm not an expert on this issue, but what I would say is, people should investigate this issue and get the facts.
And if these allegations are true, absolutely. This is incredibly inappropriate behavior.
TAPPER: Do you believe the allegations?
MNUCHIN: Again, I just watch what I see on TV. If...
TAPPER: I know, but you have an opinion. Do you believe them?
MNUCHIN: It -- it -- it appears that there is a significant issue here that needs to be addressed.
TAPPER: Secretary Mnuchin, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.
Thanks for coming in today.
MNUCHIN: Thank you.
TAPPER: Let's go now to the number two Democrat in the Senate, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. He's also a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senator Durbin, let's start with Russia.
What do you make of President Trump's comments about Vladimir Putin and U.S. intelligence agencies?
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), MINORITY WHIP: Incredible to me.
We had a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. We produced a Facebook ad that had a phony committee. It was blasting Hillary Clinton, and it was paid for with rubles from Russia.
What is the president waiting to see before he acknowledges what our intelligence agencies and most people in both political parties acknowledge? There was a definite attempt by Russia to influence this election.
TAPPER: According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, 76 percent of Americans would get a tax cut next year under the Republican plan, with middle-class families receiving, on average, a cut of about $800.
Democrats, however, keep pushing the notion that the average middle- class family is going to see a tax increase. "The Washington Post" fact-checker gave that claim four Pinocchios.
I will say to you what I just said to Secretary Mnuchin. Shouldn't people be honest when discussing this issue?
DURBIN: Well, absolutely. And let's be honest in this.
We know that the wealthiest Americans are going to get a definite long-term, permanent tax cut. Under both plans, House and Senate, the estate tax, Alternative Minimum Tax, and the taxes that affect the wealthiest people will be permanently reduced. When it comes to working families, it's a mixed bag. In my state of
Illinois, it's going to be devastating that they cannot deduct their state and local and property taxes that they pay. They will be paying a tax on a tax. This is not a tax break for them. And it violates a basic.
And let me tell you, there is a reason why this plan has been prepared in secret, why it's not being scored by the Congressional Budget Office, as it is traditionally. It's because it doesn't add up.
The only way the Republicans can make it add up is by cutting Medicare by $473 billion and Medicaid by $1 trillion. That, to me, is not the way to deal with this economy and to build real growth.
TAPPER: You're the Senate Democratic whip. Your job is to count the votes. Do you have commitments from everyone who caucuses with the Democratic Party that they will oppose the Republican plan? And have you heard from any Republicans who might join you?
DURBIN: Jake, we just saw this plan on Friday. They just unveiled this plan in the Senate. So, members of the Senate have heard some rumors, have seen the House bill.
But I can tell you, each one of them comes to it and says, why would we want to risk our economy, raising the taxes on many working families, to give a permanent tax cut to the wealthiest people in America and to run up the national debt?
That is not a sound policy to build America's economy.
TAPPER: There's been a lot of talk about Judge Roy Moore. If he does get elected, should the U.S. Senate refuse to seat him?
DURBIN: Well, I will tell you that's several steps removed from where we are today.
President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party in America. It's his responsibility to step forward and say more and do more when it comes to the situation in Alabama.
Many of my Republican colleagues whom I respect, they have strong family ties and feel very passionately about this, have spoken out on it. And I respect them for doing it.
It's time for the president to do the same.
TAPPER: If your colleague Senator Bob Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, is convicted on the corruption charges -- he's on trial right now -- the jury is still deliberating -- will you vote to expel him?
DURBIN: I'm not going to get into the hypotheticals on either of these situations, as I said, several steps removed.
I'm hopeful that, when all is said and done, that Bob Menendez will be returning to the Senate representing the state of New Jersey.
TAPPER: Senator Dick Durbin of the great state of Illinois, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
DURBIN: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: Republicans are scrambling to distance themselves from Senate candidate Roy Moore, as the Alabama judge is doubling down on his denials that he engaged in sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old girl when he was 32.
One Republican calling for the Republican Party to pull their support is Governor John Kasich.
He joins me now from his home state of Ohio.
Governor, good to see you.
The White House is saying Judge Moore should step aside if the allegations prove to be true.
Is that good enough?
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Well, I don't think so, Jake.
Look, I wasn't for him in the beginning. He's too divisive a person to go over there to the Senate.
But, look, there's a growing list of people that think he ought to step aside, not be the standard bearer. This is not a criminal case or anything like that. It's, if you're going to be the candidate for the party, and these kinds of things come out, and there's so many people now in Alabama saying, yes, we believe her, and you have growing numbers of Republicans, like John McCain, Mitt Romney, John Kasich, saying he should step aside.
Of course he should.
TAPPER: Roy Moore is not going to step aside, though. He cannot be removed from the ballot.
Given these circumstances, do you think Republicans in Alabama should vote for do you go Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate?
KASICH: Jake, I think he should step aside. If not, maybe you can get a write-in candidate. Lisa Murkowski did it in Alaska. She was elected. I think she's urging somebody down there to do that.
And, you know, I'm -- people of Alabama have to figure it out. And I would hope that they would say, no, this is not acceptable. And maybe the party will do it. You know, pressure is mounting. We will see what happens, Jake.
TAPPER: If he is elected, despite these allegations, do you think that the U.S. Senate...
KASICH: I can't tell you about the Senate. TAPPER: No?
KASICH: I can't tell you about the Senate, Jake. That's up to them.
No, look, there's growing numbers of senators that are deeply disturbed about this. The Senate campaign committee apparently has cut off funding. Let's not get out there. Let's see if something can be resolved here in the next few days.
TAPPER: Let's turn to Russia.
President Trump has been quick to denounce everyone under the sun, including you.
TAPPER: But, for some reason, he continues to have faith and believe what Vladimir Putin says to him...
TAPPER: ... including, apparently, over the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community.
What, in your opinion, is going on here?
KASICH: I don't know, Jake.
When I -- when I read that he was calling these intelligence guys -- and let me just tell you, it's not just the guys that you interviewed, but, you know, there's people like Bob Gates. He spent a lifetime serving the public. Leon Panetta.
You just don't call these people names. I -- I read this thing, and I just -- I couldn't believe it. I was sort of incredulous at what the president was saying.
Now, apparently, he's walked back his comments to some degree.
There's no question what Russia did. They Russia meddled in our election. They support a butcher over in Syria. They invaded Ukraine. I mean, the whole thing is just crazy.
And, look, I just -- I just don't understand it. And I don't know why he's saying those things. I would just tell you that Putin is a -- is a former KGB agent. This is not a guy you can trust or a guy you can really have any confidence in.
It's ridiculous. So, hopefully, I mean, I'm glad he walked it back, Jake. That was a good thing that he did that. But I was actually flabbergasted when I read the earlier accounts. TAPPER: He walked it back a little bit, but he still refuses to say
definitively: I believe the U.S. intelligence agencies, and I believe Russia tried to interfere in the election, and I have made it very clear they need to stop.
He won't do that, at least not publicly.
KASICH: Well, I think he should -- look, you're trying to get me to tell you what's happening in his head. I don't know what's happening in your head half the time, you know?
I don't know. It's just that the evidence is there, whether it's Facebook, Twitter. Of course they meddled in our election.
And, look, there are activities in the Ukraine, where they have misled, lied, you know, attacked people in Ukraine, people have lost their lives over there, what's happening in Syria, the vicious bombardments that happened over there, it's just -- it's just ridiculous.
I mean, I -- I just -- look, you want to just -- you want to be cool, but you want to be firm. You want to be clear. That's the way you have to be with Putin or any of these other autocrats.
And one of the things I'm concerned about, as I look at this Asia trip, you now have 11 countries agreeing that they're going to get together and be involved in trade. You have China rising with their economic program, trying to influence the world, and we're, like, coming home. We're staying home.
And it doesn't make any sense, both from an economic point of view, but also from a geopolitical point of view. The United States matters. We need to have influence in the world.
And we get it, not just with trade, but with our military activity and our relationship with our allies. And to have walked away from this is just really a very, very big mistake.
TAPPER: Governor, speaking of elections, I want to ask you about last Tuesday's election results. Democrats won key races in New Jersey and in Virginia.
You, of course, remember...
KASICH: Well, they won all over the country.
KASICH: They won all over the country, in places no one ever had seen Democrats win.
I was talking to some folks in Pennsylvania, and some of the people -- some of the Democrats won over there in areas that have always been Republican. Look, the Republican Party has just gotten smaller here, you know,
anti-trade, anti-immigrant, trying to take health care away from folks. This is not going to work.
These are things I have been talking about for a long time. We have problems in this country, and you have two paths.
You can either -- you can either double down, be negative, and look for scapegoats, or you can say, yes, we have problems, but we can fix them. That's what we do here in the state of Ohio.
But if a party is going to be anti-environment and anti-trade -- and one other thing, for both parties. First of all, the Democrats didn't win anything. They just kind of lucked into it, because people are fed up with both parties.
And the millennials and the Gen X'ers are going to equal the baby boomers in 2018. And the millennials and the Gen X'ers are coming. They're pro-environment, pro-trade, comfortable with America's place in the world.
And if either of these parties, the Democrats moving farther and farther to the left, the Republicans worried about everything on the extreme right, playing to their base, if this continues, these -- these millennials and Gen X'ers are totally up for grabs. And, frankly, it's going to reshape the entire landscape of American politics, and thank goodness.
TAPPER: Is it possible that you will be there running as a third- party candidate in 2020 to take advantage of that, sir?
KASICH: No, I don't -- Jake, is there any...
KASICH: No, Jake, you know that I don't know what's going to be happening. I want to finish my term as governor.
But who knows what is going to happen in terms of people who might -- who might look for another way. It's very hard to be an independent. But I'm just suggesting to you that the country is getting fed up with the kind of fighting and partisan politics.
And it was reflected on Tuesday against the Republicans, not for the Democrats. I mean, I don't believe the Democrats had any great victory. They just were the benefit of a lot of negativity and small thinking on the part of Republicans.
Can the Republicans turn it around? Absolutely! Take care of these -- of the DACA, the dreamers here in the country. Get a tax cut that's balanced. Begin to be more positive about the environment. Welcome immigrants, while protecting the border.
These are -- this is what the Republican Party is. It's what it's always been. And it's what I fight for, along with a number of my colleagues.
So, you know, I -- I'm optimistic. But they're going to have to change, because getting smaller, getting more inward, taking America backward, it's not going to work.
TAPPER: Governor Kasich, coming to us from a very toasty-looking room, thank so much for joining us this morning. Appreciate it.
KASICH: Very nice here, Jake.
TAPPER: It looks it.
President Trump, friend to all, trying to cozy up to Vladimir Putin, tweeting that he's tried so hard to be friends with Kim Jong-un, and now getting friendly with a man who has bragged about killing people with his own bare hands, Philippine President Duterte.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
I'm here with our panel.
Let's just dive right in. We have got a lot to discuss.
Senator Santorum, you heard the former CIA Director John Brennan, the former Director of National Intelligence General James Clapper expressing their concerns about President Trump's reluctance to take on Putin directly, and also saying -- Brennan said he thinks that Putin is able to play him.
What do you think?
RICK SANTORUM, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I think -- frankly, I agree with Secretary Mnuchin. I think it's ridiculous.
The fact of the matter is that, you know, Donald Trump is trying to conduct foreign policy, trying to work with world leaders. He repeated what Vladimir Putin said. He said, in an interview, that he agrees, he sides with our intelligence community.
He says that he -- all he said was that Putin said it. He means what he says. He didn't say he agrees with him.
And I think his point that, you know, we need to work with world leaders, it used to be Democrats who were encouraging us to work with the Soviet Union and find common ground. Now we see, because of this scandal, all of a sudden, everybody is on the other side, and the Russians are the worst people in the world, we can't work with them, when, four years -- when -- excuse me -- eight years ago, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama wanted to do a reset with them.
So, it's just -- for the average Trump voter, they're looking at this as just purely politics, this as really nothing to do with the substance of the matter. It's just about getting Donald Trump.
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I see it differently, surprisingly.
SANTORUM: Surprisingly enough.
GRANHOLM: I think that Trump is very well aware of the sentiment out there that was expressed in the CNN poll that was issued earlier this last -- this past week, which says that two-thirds of Americans, including a lot of Republicans, are really concerned about Russia and Russia interference.
I think that he's so utterly freaked out by -- and insecure about his position as president, knowing that Russia did intervene, that he yesterday committed three very unpatriotic acts in one day, criticizing our U.S. intel agencies on foreign soil, standing up with Putin, saying he believes Putin over the U.S. intel agencies, and..
SANTORUM: He didn't say that.
GRANHOLM: ... and, third, criticizing James Clapper, three-star general, on Veterans Day.
Honestly, no wonder he quickly, in the same news cycle, whew, whew, whew, whew, did a backspin on it, because he knew how horrible that looks for himself, his administration and for the country.
No wonder John McCain said, this is not America first. Really, this is putting Russia first.
TAPPER: What do you think?
MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think he -- Putin is a KGB guy. Like, let's -- so you should view him with a jaundiced eye. All leaders should view him with a jaundiced eye.
I do think it's a slight manipulation of his statement that he said he agreed with him. He said he believed that he believed what he was saying.
But this is sort of Trump's thing. He dances around things and he says 14 different things, when he should just say, I agree with -- wait for it -- he doesn't even have to agree with Clapper. He can agree with Mike Pompeo, his very own guy, and say, I agree with the assessment that Russia was involved.
I'm actually with Trump on some of the idea that I'm worried about overplaying the effect that $150,000 of Facebook ads might have had in undermining American democracy. I'm with him that there might be some political concerns about the intelligence agencies. And Clapper himself has proven to be an unreliable narrator at times,
telling Congress back in 2013 the least untruthful thing he could say about NSA spying on American citizens. There are some concerns you can have.
Don't talk about them overseas. Admit that Russia did get involved, and we want to stop it in the future, and deal with that, instead of dealing with the KGB guy.
TAPPER: Now, Van, he didn't say that he believed Putin. He did say Putin believes it.
But he did give a lot of people the impression that he was sympathetic to Putin.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He did.
And this quest for legitimacy on Trump's part isn't just about this issue. It seems to be a lot of his life has been this quest to be legitimate, to be accepted in New York. Never accepted there by the high-class people there.
And, at a certain point, it's just painful to watch somebody who just can't get his mouth around what everybody else is saying.
You can say two things when you're president. You can say, this thing that Russia did is wrong, it's unacceptable, I'm going to stop you if you do it. At the same time, we have got other issues. We have got to work together on that.
That's what a leader does. He can't get his mouth around the first part of that sentence because it undermines his sense of accomplishment in this big, big thing that he got. And it's putting the country at risk.
HAM: Ironically, it would undermine it less if he would just say it.
GRANHOLM: Yes. Yes.
TAPPER: I want to turn to the other huge story in politics, which is Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican Senate candidate.
Let me show you what Mike Allen is reporting at Axios about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Roy Moore -- quote -- "A Republican close to McConnell said he is willing to lose the seat to prevent someone who is guilty of these things from taking it."
What is your take, Senator Santorum?
SANTORUM: My take is, well, I just saw a news report out of a Birmingham television station where they went into a neighborhood outside of Birmingham, a suburban neighborhood, that actually Roy Moore lost to Luther Strange in the primary, and they couldn't find a single person who believed any of this. TAPPER: Who believed the allegations against him.
SANTORUM: Who believed the allegations. And these are not Moore supporters.
It just goes to show the fact -- this was "The Washington Post" that dug this up, and obviously spent a lot of time and energy. And it just plays into the narrative that Donald Trump has created in this country and that Roy Moore has fed into that the folks here in Washington are after folks like them. And -- and -- and there is a -- there is a backlash.
HAM: Except that the four women are also Alabamians. Like, they are part of that group as well.
And I don't -- look, I think, when you want and you elect an Elmer Gantry, you get an Elmer Gantry. And he's a guy who has -- who has made his bones off of not backing down in the face of this kind of thing. I think he will continue to do this. He will probably stay on the ballot.
I think, even if Trump decided to tell him to get off, he would, be, oh, no, I don't think so.
So I think they are in a real tricky situation here, except that he may just win, despite the fact that I think, look, the media has been unreliable on sexual harassment issues in the past, two just weeks ago, NBC passing on the Weinstein story because somebody was buddies with somebody.
So, reasons to be skeptical. But you can read this story close to an election. You can through and see there are contemporaneous reports. There are four women who don't know each other. There's an M.O. here.
Those are markers that you can use to say, is this credible or not? There is not going to be anything in a court of law, so you have to decide here what -- is this credible?
GRANHOLM: Yes, I'm -- this disturbs me, this whole thing about -- I mean, it's not just the media, but this whole utter tribalism that we have entered into.
Yesterday, I actually retweeted and said, oh, my God, is this what we're come to? A former aide to Rand Paul, but it was really, honestly, indicative of what we're hearing out of Alabama, which is: "I would be fine with a child predator in the Senate, so long as it would keep the Democrats from stealing this seat. Child molesters are evil. Democrats are even worse."
I mean, are we really at the point where people in Alabama, because they don't want to be perceived as bowing to the national media, are going to choose somebody who has been a child molester of a 14-year- old girl over somebody who has been a career prosecutor who happens to be a Democrat?
I hope to God we are not in that place. But there was a recent Pew poll that said that over 40 percent of each party view the other party as an active threat to democracy.
SANTORUM: No, it's true.
GRANHOLM: So, that is dangerous.
TAPPER: There are Republicans who have come out and withdrawn their endorsement, Senator Mike Lee of Utah, Senator Cassidy of Louisiana.
The national Republican Senatorial Committee has ended its fund- raising agreement with the Moore campaign. There are Republicans taking a position.
But let's be frank. Honestly, Roy Moore could absolutely still win.
JONES: Yes, he could.
And, you know, this is the -- we haven't mentioned Steve Bannon in this, but this is Bannonism on trial. Bannon is trying to create this sense of an aggrieved identity group, frankly, a white aggrieved identity group, that is under siege by everyone.
And this is that in its worst form. So you are not supposed to vote as a father. You are not supposed to vote as a brother. You're not supposed to vote as a woman. You are supposed to vote as a member of this identity group against the world.
And, if that works, that is very, very bad for the Republican Party and it's very, very bad for the country.
There are -- at some point, you -- there is -- I have not seen any reason not to believe these women. And so, at some point, other things have to matter than this kind of ultra-tribal -- I think it's a very good term -- a tribal identity politics growing in America, at the expense of every other value.
SANTORUM: Well, the tribalism is on the Democratic side too.
Look at Bob Menendez. I mean, Bob Menendez has been accused of horrific things. And they are standing by their man, until Chris Christie leaves, so they can appoint somebody else, if he happens to survive this.
So, the bottom line is, it is tribalism on both sides. This could be solved if Roy Moore would do what I have recommended to many Senate candidates who have run into this problem in the past, where they do or said or been accused of something that makes them unelectable or a lot less electable than -- quote -- "your generic Republican" who is equally conservative.
And that is to put the party and the country above of his own personal gain and step back.
TAPPER: You think he should do that? SANTORUM: Look, if I was a candidate under these circumstances, given
what was going on, and I cared most about my country and the policies that I wanted to get accomplished, of course I would step back.
But that is not the way people -- I haven't seen anybody -- I mean, I can go down a long laundry list of Senate candidates that I have had this discussion with over the last 20 years. And they all stick it out, thinking, oh, you know, I'm right, and I'm going to show them. And they end up losing.
And the things they say they care about are actually diminished.
So, there are other candidates. Robert Aderholt is a great guy, who is a congressman who has been there a long time, who could step in immediately, Gary Palmer, another congressman, Glenn Murdock, a Supreme Court justice, along with Roy Moore, who has a great conservative -- there is a bunch of them out there who are sitting here in the wings who could easily be plucked by the Republican Party committee in Alabama and put in Roy Moore's place.
And that election would be a 10-point race.
HAM: Well, but part of Bannon's pitch is also that a guy like Moore is good because he is specifically bucking the party. So the idea that the party apparatus would have power over him, I think, is -- that runs averse to what these voters want.
The other thing about Bannon's pitch is that, in part -- this is the part that I think is true and speaks to folks, is that he basically says, look, they have been playing by these rules for years and not getting called on it, so you have got to -- you have got to arm up, or you can't unilaterally disarm.
It's basically like predator equity in the Senate is what we're going for in American politics now.
But it's really, super unhealthy. I mean, I'm speaking of Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton, all of these people who have had various bad allegations against them in the past, and proven ones. That is a really unhealthy way to do business.
It may be that Alabama -- in Alabama, Roy Moore ends up winning without dropping off. The thing about Bannonism is, when it's tested in the Rust Belt, where it really did make the difference in the presidential election, does that work? It didn't work in Virginia.
GRANHOLM: And every single Republican is going to have to stand for, do you believe, for example, as Roy Moore says, that homosexuality should be a crime? Do you believe that 9/11 was God's revenge for sodomy?
I mean, all of these crazy things that they will have to stand up for.
TAPPER: Thank you, one and all, for being here.
President Trump says he believes Vladimir Putin means it when he says Russia didn't meddle in the 2016 election.
Perhaps that is because some are whispering in President Trump's ear that everything is just one big conspiracy.
And that is the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoon-ion."
TAPPER (voice-over): It shouldn't come as a surprise that President Trump recently dispatched his CIA chief to meet with a conspiracy theorist when it comes to what happened with the DNC hacks and whether the Russians were involved.
He's never shied away from tackling the toughest conspiracy theories.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If he wasn't born in this country, which is real possibility, then he has pulled one of the great cons in the history of politics.
TAPPER: Getting to the bottom of the crazy conspiracy theory about where Obama was born took five long years.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like, did we fake the moon landing?
OBAMA: What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?
TAPPER: But now that he is president, Mr. Trump no longer has do all the hunting and fact-finding on his own. He now has a full Cabinet at his disposal.
TRUMP: There are over two million criminal aliens in this country.
TAPPER: Aliens? HUD Secretary Ben Carson is the man for the job.
BEN CARSON, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY: When you look at the way the pyramids are made, you know, there were alien beings that came down.
TAPPER: Speaking of national mysteries.
TRUMP: I see Elvis back there. Elvis, this is the last chance we got.
TAPPER: Could Rick Perry say no to that one?
RICK PERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF ENERGY: I hate to be conspiratorial.
TAPPER: With his golf course in Scotland, President Trump himself might be the best person to investigate the Loch Ness Monster. TRUMP: The bad news is that this is some big monster. You don't want
to be in that path.
TAPPER: Of course, there is one area the president is not so interested examining further: the actual facts of foreign interference in the 2016 election.
TRUMP: I call it the Russian hoax, one of the great hoaxes.
TAPPER: Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us.
You can catch me here every Sunday, and weekdays on "THE LEAD" at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.
I'm Jake Tapper in Washington.
"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts right now.